Don't count the Angels out on Lackey and Figgins

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CBS’s Scott Miller talks to Angels’ GM Tony Reagins who says that we shouldn’t assume that John Lackey and Chone Figgins have played their last games in Anaheim:

While that still could happen, Angels GM Tony Reagins said Wednesday that there’s “no question” the club intends to attempt to retain Lackey, as well as leadoff man Chone Figgins. Both are high atop the desirables this winter in a weak free-agent class. . .

. . . Reagins said the Angels have been in touch with Lackey’s representative, Steve Hilliard, since the season ended. “The communication has been good thus far,” Reagins said. “I think that’s what’s important.” As for Figgins, whom the Philadelphia Phillies and others have expressed interest in, Reagins says that there have been “positive lines of communication.”

I’m not sure why everyone has discounted Anaheim’s chances of re-signing Lackey and Figgins.  As of now, the Angels have a little north of $70 million in guaranteed 2010 money to Torii Hunter, Gary Matthews, Jr., Bobby Abreu, Brian Fuentes, Scott Kazmir, Scot Shields, Ervin Santana, and Juan Rivera.  They have 10 or so pre-arb players who made less than half a million last year. Most of them will get raises, but even then, that puts the team at, what, the $95 million range, tops?  Spare change rounds out the roster.

The Angels had a payroll of $113 million in 2009 and Reagins tells Miller that he expects it will be similar in 2010.  Assuming there’s at least a bit of give in those numbers, it’s at least plausible to suggest that the Angels could sign both Lackey and Figgins to long term deals without significant hometown discounts.  Yes, that means walking away from Vlad, but maybe the Angels do that anyway, covering the DH slot with Abreu and Rivera and whoever needs rest at any given time.  And let us not forget: Gary Matthews wants out of Anaheim. No, it’s not likely the Angels will find someone dumb enough to pick up a significant portion of his salary, but maybe a little of it goes away.  Crazier things have happened.

Maybe that’s a stretch, but they certainly could be players for one of those guys, and any hot stove speculation that doesn’t at least acknowledge Anaheim’s chances at signing either Figgins or Lackey — or maybe even both — is missing part of the story.

Clay Buchholz apologized to the Phillies for getting injured

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MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that starter Clay Buchholz is at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins. The right-hander recently underwent surgery to repair a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass. The timetable for his recovery is three to five months, but most are expecting him to miss the rest of the season since the Phillies aren’t legitimate contenders.

According to Zolecki, Buchholz apologized to GM Matt Klentak “and others” — presumably other front office staff and/or his teammates — for getting injured. Buchholz hopes to return to pitch in September.

It’s saddening to me, and indicative of the general anti-labor culture in sports, that a player feels obligated to apologize for getting injured on the job. Injuries are nothing new for Buchholz, which might have factored into his decision to apologize. Red Sox fans got on his case quite a bit over the years for his propensity to land on the disabled list. But it wasn’t like Buchholz was taking unnecessary risks; he simply did his job, which entails doing a lot of unhealthy movement with his arm. Buchholz owes no one an apology.

Buchholz isn’t the only player to have apologized for getting injured. Outfielder Hideki Matsui apologized to the Yankees in 2006. Starter Masahiro Tanaka apologized in 2014. Twins reliever Glen Perkins apologized last year. Even Madison Bumgarner sort of apologized for suffering injuries riding a dirt bike on an off-day, saying “It’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” Because god forbid an athlete has interests and hobbies outside of his vocation.

Players are brought up in a sports culture that allows exorbitantly wealthy owners to bilk the players — laborers — at every possible turn. They’re mostly underpaid and poorly taken care of in the minors. If and when they reach the major leagues, their salaries are intentionally depressed for six years and their service time is toyed with (just ask Kris Bryant). Buchholz endured that and then endured the criticism that comes with having been a hyped prospect who mostly failed to live up to expectations. He’s gone above and beyond what he needed to do to have a successful career as a professional baseball player, even if it wasn’t as much as fans or front office personnel would have liked.

Eric Thames leaves game with apparent injury

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Update (5:22 PM ET): Thames is dealing with left hamstring tightness. Manager Craig Counsell says it’s “not a big deal,” Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

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Brewers first baseman Eric Thames left Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Reds in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent injury. Thames took his position to start the inning, but was replaced by Jesus Aguilar. Thames had flied out weakly to center field to end the previous inning, so perhaps something happened while he ran that out.

The Brewers should provide an update shortly on the exact nature of Thames’ early exit. Needless to say, losing Thames to the disabled list would be a huge blow to the 11-11 Brewers, as he entered Wednesday leading all of baseball in runs (25), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.929), and OPS (1.411). Thames was 1-for-3 with a single, a pair of walks, and two runs scored before leaving.